Monday, May 12, 2008

The Emigration Stone at Cromarty

It was a treat to visit Cromarty on this beautiful spring day, whin flowers on the hillsides a splash of vivid yellow. Cromarty still retains a whiff of the 18th century even though the traditional houses are now home to computer programmers, web designers and to Calico UK, internet service provider for Scottish Clans and Castles.

I was with the first of our 2008 Outlander Tours. We wandered the narrow vennels, told stories of smugglers and pirates, and rope made here from hemp imported from St Petersburg. Most of all, though, we admired the 'Emigration Stone', above.

The words on it are from Cromarty's most famous son, Hugh Miller - Geologist, Writer and Naturalist, who watched ships sail off to the New World in the 1830s...

"The Cleopatra, as she swept past the town of Cromarty, was greeted with three cheers by crowds of the inhabitants and the emigrants returned the salute, but mingled with the dash of the waves and the murmurs of the breeze, their faint huzzas seemed rather sounds of wailing and lamentation than of a congratulatory farewell."

Hugh Miller also wrote. "Life itself is a school, and nature always a fresh study". Particularly true today.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Runic Graffiti on The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Sixty stones once stood in The Ring of Brodgar. Each slab, nine or ten feet tall, was set about five degrees apart to form an almost perfect circle on the open moorland. This remarkable monument was created some time before the Pyramids. We don't know exactly why. It is a World Heritage Site, but this hasn't stopped people carving their names. The most interesting is 'Bjorn', a Viking with some time on his hands in the 12th century. Underneath his spindly runic writing, he scratched a cross. How remote these runes seem to us! And yet we are separated from Bjorn by just 800 years; he is separated from those who erected these stones by some four thousand years.

Note: Only the first three of five runes that make up the name are illustrated.